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2021 Season Review : Busan IPark

The Busan IPark's 2021 season ended earlier than usual. Contrary to expectations at the beginning of the season, Busan failed to advance to the playoffs, making it impossible for Busan fans to continue their "long tradition" of watching football games wearing winter jackets. Dowon Lee reviews what happened in the 2021 season, where the advantages and disadvantages were extremely harmonized, and what will change in the 2022 season.

Peres' appointment and Pre-season

In an interview with K League United, Busan IPark’s head coach Ricardo Peres said he was appointed through a 40-minute video meeting with HDC Chairman Chung Mong-kyu. Chung Mong-kyu, chairman of the Korea Football Association and owner of Busan IPark, asked Paulo Bento, the current head coach of the South Korean national team if anyone is suitable for Busan, and Paulo Bento recommended Ricardo Peres. When he was first appointed, many fans had expectations. Although he managed 14 games in Portugal's second-division team Casa Pia with 0.58 points per game, this was his first experience as a senior team head coach and they showed poor performances, but it could be seen as a growing pain to become a better coach in the future. In addition, the project he emphasized countless times since taking office was accessible to many curious Busan fans.

Notably, the most different aspect from other K League managers was his training methods. Many reporters who covered Busan in the pre-season praised Busan's training. While other Korean managers mainly focus on physical training to manage players' physical strength in the pre-season, Peres and his coaches have focused on pointing out the details of the players rather than physical training. He praised his training method, saying the players were able to spend the pre-season without injuries due to the short training time.

Peres also uses yoga and meditation for training. He has a yoga license, and he conducts yoga once a week with the players. Yoga in the football team may be a common training method in Europe, but it could be an unfamiliar method to Korean players. The most unusual method to K League fans is related to Peres's faith, which is saying a verse from the Bhagavad Gita to players, one of Hinduism's three major temples, before every match.

[Read: Ricardo Peres interview "I love challenge"]

As coaches have changed and the training methods definitely changed, the rebuilding of Busan also proceeded. First of all, Busan's star players such as Romulo, Kim Moon-hwan, Lee Jung-hyeop, and Park Joon-kang moved to other teams, while trading Lee Dong-jun and Lee Kyu-sung for Ulsan’s young players such as Park Jung-in, Choi Jun, Lee Sang-heon, and Jung Hoon-sung, and bringing An Byung-jun, the K League 2 scorer from last season. Busan also signed Valentinos and Drozdek as foreign players. Valentinos, who has a lot of experience in the K League, could strengthen the Busan defense while Drozdek, who scored 16 goals in 27 games in the Croatian Second Division could be a critical option to beating opponents.

Busan fans did not expect results at first because many parts had changed, including coaches and players. Busan was defeated 0-3 in the home opening match against Seoul E-Land on February 28th. They did win the next match against Daejeon though, but lost 4-0 in the third round against Chungnam Asan, overwhelmed by Ryohei Michibuchi, who is now no longer in the league. 

Since then, Busan has continued its so-called "splash splash," repeating wins and losses in every game until the 10th round. However, Peres and the Royals won two consecutive games against Daejeon and Jeonnam in the 11th and 12th rounds, with fans expecting to bring stable results by the end of the season, but the situation began to worsen from the 18th round. Busan scored 12 goals and conceded 21 goals in 13 games, from a 0-0 draw against Bucheon in the 18th round to a 0-0 draw against Seoul E-Land in the 30th round (One win, six draws, and six losses).

But after that, Busan thrashed Seoul E-Land 2-1 at home in the 31st round and maintained hope for the playoffs by winning 2-1 against Chungnam Asan in the 32nd round. However, after losing 0-1 and 2-0 in the next two games against Bucheon and Jeonnam, Busan's hope for the playoff become a goal for next season. Of course, Busan had finished fifth in the league, but they need to focus on the points that the Royals achieved. Busan has 26 points different from eventual winners Gimcheon, but it is only eight points different from League’s bottom side Bucheon.


Busan Supporters POP called Peres to talk about the situation that the team didn’t win in the last nine games after the match against Anyang on September 18th, but he went to the locker room rather than talk to them. After the match against Seoul E-Land on September 22, POP attempted to talk to Peres in front of the team's bus. In that situation, Peres replied in a conversation with the supporters that he and his team were showing "attacking football" to fans. However, this is only half right. Of course, in terms of aggressive indicators, Busan is a good team with 46 goals in 36 games, ranking fourth in the league, but its disadvantages were strong enough to overshadow the advantages in the process of attacking and losing points. For example, An Byung-jun and Park Jeong-in scored 67 per cent of Busan's total goals. Of course, both players are outstanding, but it is not desirable to keep the team scoring with just these two players.

In addition, Busan conceded 56 goals in the league, 23 goals difference from Jeonnam, led by Peres's "rival" coach Jeon Gyung-jun. Naturally, attack-oriented football has no choice but to concede more goals than defence-oriented football, but the record of conceding 1.44 goals per game is also evidence of Busan's unstable defense. The cause of the unstable defense can be seen as a lack of experience, and after Kang Min-soo and Kim Dong-woo, who were veterans of the team, left Busan to join Incheon and Suwon FC in the summer transfer market, Valentinos had to lead the central defense alone, while Hwang Jun-ho, Park Ho-young, and Kim Seung-woo had only played 34 games combined before 2021 season. Of course, Peres said he would focus on improving young players in his first season, but it is ironic that teams aiming for attacking football have a -10 goal margin.

What will happen to IPark next season?

Like every other team, Busan has to improve or maintain their strength for promotion and reinforce their weakness. It is necessary to reinforce Busan’s defense and score similar to last season regardless of whether An Byung-jun stays or not. Several people pointed out Busan's lack of experience and argued that the squad might need some veterans next year, but Busan will continue this season's stance. That's why many players will stay in the team. Busan's main task in the winter transfer window would be to keep their star players such as Kim Jin-kyu, Choi Jun, and An Byung-jun.

In addition, many things are scheduled to change in Busan IPark next year. As the contract period for using Gudeok Stadium between Busan and IPark expires, the team will use the Asiad Main Stadium next year. During that period, the Busan Metropolitan Government plans to renovate grass and seats at Gudeok Stadium. Although Gudeok Stadium is about 100 years old, it has a better environment to play in than the Asiad Stadium, which was completed in 2001, through frequent renovation. Currently, there are still issues related to the football stadium in Busan, so the Royals still have the hope to play in the football stadium.

Also, the uniform sponsor will change next year. Busan signed a contract with Kika after the contract with Adidas ended in 2016, and then used the Adidas uniform sponsored by Kika, but now they completed a contract with Puma. Busan has already revealed its concept kit for next season in theRound 36, at home to Gyeongnam, with a new uniform set to be introduced soon.

MVP: An Byung-jun

“God, save the King”

It is difficult to discuss Busan this season without this player. An Byung-jun is the first player in K League 2 history to record the top scorer & MVP for two consecutive years. After the 2020 season, the transfer from Suwon FC to Gangwon was certain, but Gangwon did not confirm his arrival due to medical issues, and Busan brought him in. An Byung-jun played 34 games in the 2021 season and scored 23 goals, accounting for 50% of Busan's total score this season, while he also recorded the most assists in the team with Choi Jun with four. Using excellent basic skills, he shook the opponent's net regardless of distance and energized the team members with accurate passes. Not only inside the stadium but also outside, he showed a lot of care for his juniors to the extent that he became a meme among K League fans for serving eel over rice to young players such as Lee Sang-hun and Park Jung-in several times. Coach Peres also praised his professional consciousness. Nothing has been decided on An Byung-jun's future yet, but if he remains, he will definitely help Busan compete for promotion next year.

Young Player: Lee Tae-min

Lee Tae-min, who moved from the Pohang U-18 team to the Busan U-18 team in 2019, signed a semi-pro contract with Cho Hye-sung and Heo Seung-chan as part of a project between Ricardo Peres and Busan IPark club this season. Although he mainly played as a sub, he still played more than many would have expected him to and he remains one of the more in-form players for his age. Although he failed to score a goal nor an assist this season, Lee Tae-min's scene of beating Asnawi in the 21st round against Ansan at Gudeok Stadium will be the most memorable moment of the 2021 season for him.

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